This beautiful American White Pelican was transferred to us on July 18 from our colleagues at the SPCA for Monterey County’s Wildlife Center, after being found on a rural road in Monterey County with injuries consistent with being stuck by a vehicle. They sent our staff veterinarian, Dr. Rebecca Duerr, some x-rays that did not make the case seem very hopeful…but it was intriguing! The bird had a good attitude (snappy and feisty) and was in otherwise good condition, but had two broken legs. In pelicans, the bone that is broken in this bird (the tarsometatarsus) is a fracture that requires pinning in order to have a good outcome. Our vet had pinned several of these in pelicans before but never both legs on the same bird! The rehabilitators in Monterey splinted the fractures temporarily and transferred him to our San Francisco Bay center for surgery.
On examination at our center, the left tarsometatarsus had intact skin but felt like a crunchy shattered mess through the whole middle half of the bone. On the x-rays we could see a series of longitudinal cracks, but it felt structurally sound on each end, which boded well for holding pins. The right side felt more-or-less intact but had a squishy, caved-in area on the front side that appeared as a greenstick (incomplete) fracture on x-rays. Even in a well-fitted splint, greenstick tarsometatarsus fractures in pelicans tend to bend and warp as they heal, leaving the bird with altered weight-bearing on the leg and subsequent trouble standing and walking. Both legs definitely needed pinning. Surgery to place pins happened last week.
We are happy to report this bird is now standing and walking very well on his pinned legs! He is also much less cranky now that he can stand up and walk away from us. He has been spending his time enjoying the menu and has gained quite a bit of weight. His foot posture when standing is excellent and he has perfect control of all his toes. So far so good!
The pins will be removed in a few weeks.
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